Retired Seattle Police Chief Talks Pot vs. Alcohol

Retired Seattle police chief, Norm Stamper, wrote a small article in the Huffington Post about not only his experiences as a law officer dealing with pot smokers and alcohol consumers, but also the statistics currently available on both. As the question as whether or not to legalize/decriminalize marijuana continues in earnest, I thought I’d post a few snippets from that article:

headshotI am a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition… We at LEAP are current and former cops and other criminal justice practitioners who have witnessed firsthand the futility and manifold injustices of the drug war. Our professional experiences have led us to conclude that the more dangerous an illicit substance–from crack to krank–the greater the justification for its legalization, regulation, and control. It is the prohibition of drugs that leads inexorably to high rates of death, disease, crime, and addiction.

Alcohol-related traffic accidents claim approximately 14,000 lives each year… evidence from studies, including laboratory simulations, feeds the stereotype that those under the influence of canniboids tend to (1) be more aware of their impaired psychomotor skills, and (2) drive well below the speed limit. Those under the influence of alcohol are much more likely to be clueless or defiant about their condition, and to speed up and drive recklessly.

Hundreds of alcohol overdose deaths occur annually. There has never been a single recorded marijuana OD fatality.

According to the American Public Health Association, excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of death in this country… There have been no documented cases of lung cancer in a marijuana-only smoker, nor has pot been scientifically linked to any type of cancer…

While a small quantity, taken daily, is being touted for its salutary health effects, alcohol is one of the worst drugs one can take for pain management, marijuana one of the best…

Alcohol contributes to acts of violence; marijuana reduces aggression. In approximately three million cases of reported violent crimes last year, the offender had been drinking. This is particularly true in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, and date rape. Marijuana use, in and of itself, is absent from both crime reports and the scientific literature. There is simply no link to be made.

Over the past four years I’ve asked police officers throughout the U.S. (and in Canada) two questions. When’s the last time you had to fight someone under the influence of marijuana? (I’m talking marijuana only, not pot plus a six-pack or a fifth of tequila.) My colleagues pause, they reflect. Their eyes widen as they realize that in their five or fifteen or thirty years on the job they have never had to fight a marijuana user. I then ask: When’s the last time you had to fight a drunk? They look at their watches…

Anybody out there want to launch a campaign for the re-prohibition of alcohol? Didn’t think so. The answer, of course, is responsible drinking. Marijuana smokers, for their part, have already shown (apart from that little matter known as the law) greater responsibility in their choice of drugs than those of us who choose alcohol.

Retired Seattle Police Chief Talks Pot vs. Alcohol

CERN Particle Collider Passes First Test

As I mentioned below in my earlier post Return Of The Big Bang, today is the day the massive $4 billion partical collider went online. Though it will be at least a month before scientists attempt to collide two beams of protons, the initial tests begun today were completely successful. 

At 10:26 a.m. (8:26 GMT) the first pass was completed as protons finished traveling clockwise around the 17 mile underground ring. Five hours later, scientists fired a beam in the opposite direction with equally successful results. These tests are the lead up to proton beams being fired simultaneously in opposite directions where they will collide and theoretically recreate conditions a split second after the Big Bang. 

According to Alexander Higgins’ article in the Associated Press:

Scientists hope to eventually send two beams of protons through two tubes about the width of fire hoses, speeding through a vacuum that is colder and emptier than outer space. The paths of these beams will cross, and a few protons will collide. The collider’s two largest detectors — essentially huge digital cameras weighing thousands of tons — are capable of taking millions of snapshots a second.

As for concerns that this experiment might cause mini black holes thus endangering the Earth, James Gillies, the chief spokesman for CERN, claimed, “It’s nonsense.” World renowned scientist Stephen Hawking also declared the experiments to be absolutely safe. 

Though proton colliding experiments will begin in a little over a month, the accelerator is still about a year away from full power. 

CERN Particle Collider Passes First Test

Return Of The Big Bang


Cern Particle Accelerator
Cern Particle Accelerator

Remember the atomic bomb? Remember how the very notion of splitting atoms and harnessing that energy attracted top scientists from around the world? Remember how once they thought they figured out how to do it there was a small yet significant chance that it would set off a chain reaction that may have destroyed the world? Remember how they decided it was a worthwhile risk? Well, we’re back. And I have to admit, I’m not sure how I feel. The science fiction geek in me is all aflutter as we dive head-first into what could easily lead us into a whole new age. Or destroy us in one fell swoop. 

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research based in Geneva, is about to finally test out a $4 billion project that’s been under construction since 2003. The United States and Japan are the largest financial contributors to the project, but there are at least 18 other European member states financially involved and the experiment has attracted researchers of 80 different nationalities. 

The basic idea behind this? To get a closer look at what matter is made up of. How do we go about doing this? Well, the idea is to smash together atoms at such high speeds that it essentially recreates a mini Big Bang, the theory that a colossal explosion created the universe.

If successful, we have an opportunity to learn more about dark matter, anti-matter and even quite possibly other dimensions of space and time. Yep, you heard that right. 

So what could go wrong? There’s the rub. There are several groups and theorists that suggest, in moving forward with this event, there is the possibility that we could create micro black holes, subatomic versions of collapsed stars wherein the gravitation field is so strong that not even light can escape its pull. Black holes exist in our universe, but recreating them here on Earth, well, that could cause some rather unpleasant problems. 

So how is this done? According to an article released by the associated press:

The first beams of protons will be fired around the 17-mile tunnel to test the controlling strength of the world’s largest superconducting magnets. It will still be about a month before beams traveling in opposite directions are brought together in collisions…

The CERN collider is designed to push the proton beam close to the speed of light, whizzing 11,000 times a second around the tunnel 150 to 500 feet under the bucolic countryside on the French-Swiss border.

Once the beam is successfully fired counterclockwise, a clockwise test will follow. Then the scientists will aim the beams at each other so that protons collide, shattering into fragments and releasing energy under the gaze of detectors filling cathedral-sized caverns at points along the tunnel…

Scientists started colliding subatomic particles decades ago. As the machines grew more powerful, the experiments revealed that protons and neutrons — previously thought to be the smallest components of an atom — were made of still smaller quarks and gluons.

According to a team working on one of the four major installations in the tunnel:

We create mini Big Bangs by bumping two nuclei into each other. This releases an enormous amount of energy that liberates thousands of quarks and gluons normally imprisoned inside the nucleus. Quarks and gluons then form a kind of thick soup that we call the quark-gluon plasma.

The soup cools quickly and the quarks and gluons stick together to form protons and neutrons, the building blocks of matter.

That will enable scientists to look for still missing pieces to the puzzle — or lead to the formulation of a new theory on the makeup of matter.

So after nearly 6 years of construction, CERN comes online this Wednesday. So sit back and enjoy. And look at the bright side: maybe we’ll never have to find out what it might be like to have Sarah Palin as Vice President. 

For the record, CERN dismisses any risk of this experiment creating micro black holes. 

Cern site aerial view
Cern site aerial view
Return Of The Big Bang

Snapshots From Hubble: What A Wonderful World…

Yep, this picture is real. 

Red glow. This image shows the upper 2.5 light-years of the Cone Nebula, a pillar of gas and dust located 2,500 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros. Young stars at the top of the picture emit radiation, eroding the nebula over millions of years. Ultraviolet light around the pillar causes the hydrogen gas to glow, creating a reddish color.

Check out more images of the universe taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. It is located 350 miles above the Earth’s surface and has a clear view of the cosmos.

Where are we? Who are we? What’s going on out there?

Snapshots From Hubble: What A Wonderful World…

Liquid Lake Confirmed On Titan


Scientists have confirmed that Saturn’s moon, Titan, does indeed have a giant lake containing liquid. According to

“This is the first observation that really pins down that Titan has a surface lake filled with liquid,” said lead researcher Robert Brown of the University of Arizona‘s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson.

Called Ontario Lacus [because it is larger than North America’s Lake Ontario]the lake extends 150 miles (235 kilometers) and covers an area of about 7,800 square miles (20,000 square kilometers). The lake structure is filled mostly with methane and ethane, hydrocarbons that are gases on Earth but liquid on the bone-chilling surface of Titan.

What does this mean? Well, what it means is that Titan could eventually show signs of life. It is also the only moon we’ve discovered to support a planet-like atmosphere. The deeper we explore the universe, the more exciting and frightening it is. Here’s one of my favorite film interpretations of the depths of space. It’s the opening sequence to the film CONTACT and one of the loneliest, most frightening, most exhilarating arguments in favor of life beyond Earth. 

Liquid Lake Confirmed On Titan